The New York Yankees, $210-million payroll and all, found themselves in a fight for their playoff lives Sunday. They rallied from a four-run fifth-inning deficit for a 9-6 victory over Toronto that kept them tied with Baltimore atop the American League East with three games to go.
Robinson Cano’s two-run double keyed a three-run seventh inning that tied the score, 5-5, Derek Jeter capped a two-run eighth with a run-scoring single, and New York pulled away on Curtis Granderson’s two-run single in the ninth.
But it wasn’t until later, when Texas beat the Angels, 8-7, in the second game of a doubleheader that the Yankees could breathe a little easier. The Angels’ loss clinched playoff spots for the Yankees, Rangers and Orioles, who are in the postseason for the first time since 1997.
“Tonight was a season-defining game for us,” Yankees outfielder Nick Swisher said. “We could have gone down big like that and just packed it in, but that’s not this team’s M.O. We fight to the end.”
The Yankees, who had a 10-game division lead in mid-July, close with three home games against lowly Boston. The Orioles, who completed a three-game sweep of the Red Sox with a 6-3 win, close with three games at Tampa Bay, which kept its flickering wild-card hopes alive with a 6-2 victory over the Chicago White Sox.
Detroit took a huge step toward the AL Central title, as Prince Fielder hit a two-run home run in the eighth inning to give the Tigers a 2-1 win over Minnesota and a three-game lead over the White Sox. A Detroit win over Kansas City or a Chicago loss to Cleveland will clinch the division for the Tigers.
In the National League, St. Louis continued to prolong Washington’s wait to win the East with a 10-4 victory over the Nationals that kept the Cardinals’ lead over the Dodgers for the second wild-card spot at two games.
Carlos Beltran hit a home run from each side of the plate for the ninth time in his career and drove in five runs for St. Louis.
The Nationals are assured of the first postseason berth for a Washington team since 1933, but their magic number for clinching the division remains at one over second-place Atlanta.